Tuesday, September 28, 2010
If you or someone you know is a history buff then look no further because I have the perfect book recommendation for you, How to Mellify a Corpse and Other Human Stories of Ancient Science & Superstition by Vicki Leon. Sounds incredibly intriguing; does it not?! And so it is-- if you love to read about where we've been and what we've come from. But, of course, Vicki doesn't just write down the boring and mundane historical facts and move on, certainly not. More to the point, she adds a certain entertaining flair to each ancient tale.
Take for example the story where Vicki delves in to dreams and dream reading [No Matter How Weird, Just Do It (section II)]. Apparently, according to the information here, dream reading dates back to the Greeks. "Greeks were always trying to scope out what the gods meant, what this or that goddess liked or disliked. They also sought divine help with more quotidian matters: the outcome of a pending lawsuit, that chronic rash on Grandpa's buttocks, why a decent husband couldn't be found for an oldest daughter. In search of these truths, they frequently dipped into the rich cornucopia of divination methods available to them, such as oneiromancy or dream reading." Where else are you going to read about how the Greek's inquisitive nature in regards to their dreams ties in with grandpa's red and itchy hindquarters?! My guess is, there probably isn't anyplace else.
But don't worry, it's not all fun and games. There's actually a very hefty helping of scientific meandering through history that seems, to this novice's perspective, to be very thorough and, likely, very accurate on the facts. I must admit that, while I enjoyed drawing some lines through the ancestorial planes to the here and now, I actually think this book is better suited to my husband, a lover of history, than it was to me. In fact, I'm actually quite excited to share How to Mellify... with him as I have the sneaking suspicion he'll get a whole different level of appreciation from it than I did. I certainly enjoyed many of the stories, but for this self proclaimed hater of history (Let me clarify, I do not hate history. I do hate reading about it. Too many facts and I start to glaze over. It's an unfortunate reality I've had to deal with my whole life. Me and history, we just don't go as well together as peanut butter goes with jelly.) I'd be lying if I didn't say that a lot of it went over my head. It's history, so it's loaded to the brim with facts on who did what and when. I get it, that's the point of the book. For me though it was just a little more textbook like than I would pick for myself ordinarily.
However, the amount of time and research that Vicki must have put in to writing this book is simply stunning. Again, I'm no history geek, but I'd have to say it looks pretty thorough to me. From the afterlife to pollution to computers to honey and more, you'd never guess how truly mystifying the world's history is. How do you mellify a corpse anyways; do you know? While I won't be winning any science fairs or writing any history papers anytime in the near future, I can now say in all honesty that I know the answer!
Pick up YOUR copy of How to Mellify a Corpse by Vicki Leon today to learn the answer to this and take on many more intriguing quests for knowledge.
~Bookish Mom Reviews (aka RebekahC)
Monday, July 19, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Beth Redman is an evangelist, songwriter, singer, and author of several books, including Soul Sister and Beautiful. She is also the co-author, along with her husband Matt, of the book Blessed Be Your Name. Recently, Beth and Matt received the Dove Award for the Worship Song of the Year for “Blessed Be Your Name,” which they wrote together. Their combined song-writing skills also produced the popular worship songs “Let My Words Be Few,” “Facedown,” and “You Never Let Go.” The Redmans and their five children live in Atlanta where they serve as part of a team leading Passion City Church with pastors Louie and Shelley Giglio.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (July 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
As a mum, I take it very personally and get a little feisty when my daughter, Maisey-Ella, is bullied or mistreated. I consider it outrageous when I know someone has hurt her, and I find it hard not to intervene.
My husband has told me on many occasions, “You can’t give little girls evil looks, Beth!” My daughter is, quite simply, utterly gorgeous inside and out. Of course she is not perfect, but the problem all of us face is that the world is not going to like us, love us, or be on our side all of the time. Some days we will be misunderstood, blamed, and rejected. But in our home, when Maisey-Ella returns from a miserable day at school, two pairs of loving arms wait for her. Arms that without question are available to wipe away any tear, and hearts of love that speak gentle words of acceptance, reassurance, and a promise that no matter what … we love you, beautiful girl, and we are for you.
Every single human being needs the comfort and reassurance that on the days the tears fall—even if the “world” rejects us—the people who really know us (warts and all) will be there for us. Those people are our parents, our family. Sometimes, though, our family isn’t there.
However, God is an ever-present, all-loving, all-forgiving, amazing Father in heaven. He can override imperfect parenting, soothe any broken spirit, and free any bound-up heart.
I want to tell you my story.
I want to share an amazing story of restoration, a story of the hope that we all have and the truth that I pray will fill you with joy, freedom, and power! I’m not pointing the finger at anyone or trying to make anyone look bad. I simply want to shout out that God heals, restores, has plans for you, and utterly adores you! If we can truly breathe in that truth, we become free to live, free to give, and free to love and accept both others and ourselves. Then, as you breathe that truth out into a hurting and broken world that desperately needs this message of God the Father’s heart for us, God is glorified, and lives are changed and transformed by Him.
My mum was a true saint when I was growing up, and my closest friend. She brought me to church and taught me about God. In public my dad seemed the perfect father, but in private he struggled with anger … and we suffered terrible violence. In my very late teens my parents separated. I don’t think we should place our parents’ mistakes or faults under the microscope and blame them for all our problems and baggage. God teaches us to forgive, and He gives us the grace to do so. He enables us to rise above the harshest of circumstances and to begin again. He rewrites generations of brokenness to give us an incredible hope and future with Jesus.
But I want to tell this story because I believe in a God who restores, and through His power I have seen reconciliation and healing occur in the most broken of families. I know it is possible, and I have always prayed for that with my own father. However, it takes more than just a miracle for that to happen—it also requires the openness and humility of all involved. Since my parents divorced, my dad and I have had sporadic contact. Throughout that time I found it impossible and even destructive to have a normal father-daughter relationship, so I have walked carefully and lived my adult life without him.
During my pregnancy with our third child, I began to have some worrying symptoms, and after the baby’s birth, doctors began to test me for suspected liver disease. The specialist I was seeing told me that, before my liver biopsy, he needed to know as much about my medical background as possible. He asked me to contact all my living relatives and find out if anyone in the family had ever had liver problems. I contacted each family member and very nervously sent an email to my dad. He wrote back immediately, and still to this day I cannot believe his parting words.
He wrote that, yes, there was liver disease in the family, and also cancer, and he hoped I had both.
“Beth,” he wrote, “you deserve to suffer, because suffering would make someone as egotistical and vile as you a better person.”
He also threw in some awful comments about Matt and our children that need not be repeated. The email ended with him telling me I was cut out of his will and he had instructed his solicitor never to disclose his death or where he would be buried. While I was waiting for news of my liver condition, my earthly father had just cursed me and condemned my life.
God made us to love and to be loved. My earthly dad knew me, rejected me, and also detested me. Could anything be more painful?
I could hardly breathe. I phoned Matt and read him the email. I called my mum and my best friend, Anna. Inside I was crying out, Someone tell me I am loved! Please take away the pain of this horrific rejection—the words had gone so deep it felt as though my inmost parts were bleeding. I was desperate for a deeper love, validation, and acceptance. No human words could soothe me.
I put down the phone and gasped for air.
I cried out to my God … my true, amazing Father, my heavenly, forever Father, the One who knows all my failures and shortcomings and yet has never ever rejected me. He wrote my name on the palms of His hands and He stretched out His arms, and as He was viciously nailed to a cross, He separated me from my sin forever and loved me enough to die unjustly. He walked a journey of horrific agony—pleading, being taunted—and He carried my cross, my death, my past, and my sin. His love was enough as He cried out, “It is finished!” So now death and pain, brokenness and rejection, where are your sting? Everything I ever need in life is now accessible and available to me through His death.
Our God is a God who saves and who accepts and who can heal us completely. His love outweighed the words of a wounded man whose own life was so broken that he knew only how to crush others. I faced up to the pain of the situation, but at the same time knew a beautiful and powerful revelation that spoke louder than all of those other words: Though my father may forsake me, my God will never reject me. Though my earthly dad may try to erase me from his life, I shall never be forgotten. In that moment I knew a deep and permanent truth covering over the whole of my life: that God knows my name.
My Father in heaven adores me, has plans to prosper me and supernatural arms to hold me. He is with me by His Spirit every time a situation threatens to overwhelm and whenever I want to hide away and give in to the insecure, evil thoughts that come knocking. My God would never reject or forget me. He did not forget me in my time of need. From heaven He called out to me reminding me that I am His! Because He made me, He knows me, and He loves me! I am His forever. God spoke to me powerfully from His Word:
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and
have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See,
I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.
You are known by name by the Living God, the loving heavenly Father. He made you, He redeemed you, He hears you, and never ever will He forget you. Hallelujah!
In this book I want to share with you some of the powerful ways that God helped me overrule such a massive rejection with His glorious eternal truth. I hope this can help you in your own life and enable you to help others.
Isaiah 43:1–4 says this:
But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.…
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you.”
In this passage, there are several truths for us to grasp, which I want to break down and look at one by one in this chapter.
God Knows Your Name
“I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isa. 43:1)
A name is given and considered. A name imparts meaning, value, identity, and significance. Your name was chosen specifically, and especially, for you. A name gives both humanity and dignity to a person. The Enemy would have you live a nameless existence—feeling anonymous, illegitimate, unknown, unimportant, inglorious, and unfit to be named. Nineteenth-century London was a time of such material, emotional, and spiritual poverty that “children were so utterly uncared for that some were even without names, and were known to each other by nicknames.”
In direct contrast, God says that He has a name for us. Where we feel worthless and insignificant He bestows worth and significance upon us when He calls us by name and chooses us for His glory.
Anyone expecting a child has flipped through baby-name books, looking at the meanings and origins of names and thinking about how they sound. I’ve found names I loved and then been dismayed to find out they meant something like harlot, wench, or crooked nose!
Someone recently told me of a child who had been named Jezebel Harlot! That’s a pretty negative connotation to speak over a child every time she is called. Ideally, a name needs to suit the person carrying it. When my husband suggested that we name our third child “Rocco Redman,” I thought he had gone a bit mad! Normally my husband’s track record in making decisions is spot on. There really is no point arguing with Mr. Matthew Redman because over the years I have found he is nearly always right. However, on this occasion, I wasn’t so sure.
I wanted our third child to be called Benjamin, but Matt got the older children on board—and in the end I came to peace with the fact that if he was anything like his dad and his brother and sister, he would easily live up to something as strong and bold as Rocco! The name means “rest,” and so far he has turned out to be the most relaxed, peaceful, deep-sleeping, and gentle-spirited boy… and he has the confidence and joy required to be Rocco Redman. In new environments, his name still causes a little reaction, but it is so perfect for him, and I love that every time I write or call him by his full name, Rocco Benjamin Courage, I am affirming and speaking rest, sonship, bravery, and boldness over him.
In the same way, your Father God named you as precious, chosen, and beloved. You may not be named Rocco, but when God calls you, He speaks over you His truth, freedom, and life. Your part is to make a good choice—to continually believe and live under those things He named you and never to seek to hide behind another name. Many of us each day live under other labels that the Enemy has given us from past or present experiences—unwanted, failure, doubter, ugly, unlovely, needy, drama queen, mistake, disgrace, shamed, forgotten, and many more lies.
Those thoughts and feelings cannot possibly originate from God—for He is the giver of good and perfect gifts, and the God of all comfort. Those negative impressions of yourself and the words my own dad wrote in his email to me originate from the Enemy—who we know to be a dirty liar.
Perhaps you think your problems and insecurities are too great to overcome. By the kindness and mercy of God in my own life, I can assure you that this is not the case. I was abused physically, put down verbally, and rejected. I suffered humiliation many times and sadly began to act out how I felt about myself. In public I felt wretchedly insecure. I couldn’t go out with friends without feeling self-conscious and unimportant. I hated myself inside and out.
Then Jesus called my name. And everything changed. I hardly recognize the person I was back then. Our names may conjure up memories, but not always truth. I know that ultimately I am defined not by what others think of me when they hear my name, or what my earthly father says about me. Instead, the authority and compassion of the God who called my name define me. He loves, He shapes, He convicts, and He lavishes us with affirmation.
It’s time we heard His voice the loudest.
God Made Me
This is what the LORD says—
He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel. (Isa. 43:1)
Part of understanding the depths of God’s knowledge of us lies in grasping the importance of the fact that He made us.
Psalm 139:13–14 puts it beautifully:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
The phrase inmost being is literally translated “kidneys.” In Hebrew idiom this meant the innermost center of the emotions and the moral sensitivity of a person’s heart.2 Here we see that God does not just know us as a casual acquaintance or simply acknowledge our existence, marvelous though that would be for the God of heaven to do such a thing. Rather, He knows who we are right down to the final detail. God knows how you work, how you think, what makes you happy, what makes you sad. He knows the last time you cried, and what you cried about. He knows what you would like for your birthday, and He actually cares about it too. The amazing thing is you don’t actually have to tell Him all of this. He just knows, because He made you, He sees you, He hears you, and He loves you. He knows you better than you know yourself.
He knows what you need before a word is even spoken from your mouth or articulated in your heart.
God Speaks Worth Over Me
“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” (Isa. 43:4)
The first thing God said when He looked at His creation was, “It is good.” The very fact that God made you means you are wonderful!
The psalmist declares: “Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:14). Yet God didn’t just make you, then say, “What a great job,” and leave you on a shelf. No, He pursues a relationship
with you, He gives His life for you, that He may know you daily, deeply, and eternally.
Just before we were married, Matt received an invitation from Buckingham Palace. When Matt read the guest list he was a little intimidated. Top sports personalities, journalists, and film stars— and my fiancé! When he eventually met the Queen, along with Prince Charles, Matt performed a fumbled bow and stood back in shock. That was the Queen!
He couldn’t believe he had been chosen to hold out his hand and meet her majesty face-to-face. Somehow Matt had been deemed worthy of a moment with the Queen and her son, and he felt truly humbled. What a privilege!
Yet the truth is that there is a higher honor—a more amazing invitation that lies open for all of us. God in heaven; the Lord of all creation; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of your pastor and your friends who are missionaries abroad; the God of Corrie ten Boom and Martin Luther; the Author of life; the Beginning and the End—He extends the hand of friendship to you! Just as Matt was invited to stand alongside celebrities and dignitaries before the Queen at Buckingham Palace, so too are we invited to stand before the God of heaven and earth as an equal alongside great heroes of the faith … and not just to meet Him but to know Him! He speaks His love and your worth loudly over you today.
Listen closely: Isaiah 61:3 says that He bestows on us “a crown of beauty instead of ashes,” and Psalm 103:4 says that God “redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.”
Anyone wearing a crown holds her head up high. She does not have an identity problem. She has been given honor and dignity.
God speaks worth over you. He declares His love for you. You are precious in His sight. Just like when I speak rest, sonship, and courage over my child, every time God calls your name He speaks worth and
value over you. He knows you intimately because He made you, and He loves you completely.
God Hears Me
“I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isa. 43:3)
It is a fundamental human need to be heard and understood. In fact, if we feel that we are not heard, we feel a vast sense of loneliness and emptiness. If we are not heard, we do not feel understood, and if
we do not feel understood, we will not feel known. The whole point about God knowing our names, and about Him making us, is that He knows us. When we discover that we are known and understood by a friend, it can be profoundly moving. Sometimes a really good friend may understand us better than we understand ourselves.
Tom Marshall, in his book Right Relationships, says that no one can survive for long unless “we feel that somebody understands us, somebody knows what we are feeling and somebody appreciates our real desires and intentions.”3 And yet, however powerful being known and understood by a friend or your partner can be, no one can know you better or understand you more than God Himself.
Psalm 139:1–4 puts it magnificently:
O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
Some people might find this depth of understanding quite frightening—and indeed there is always a risk attached to loving and being loved, knowing and being known. God knows us completely and utterly. Our thoughts, feelings, and emotions are an open book to God. He sees what we do, and He hears what we say even before we say it, or even when we’re not talking to Him! He knows what you are doing and why you are doing it. More importantly, He knows your dreams, your ambitions, and your longings. But how can we know for ourselves that God really knows us in our inmost being, completely and utterly?
We know that we are known because He hears us.
When we know that God hears us, it transforms us from being fearful, doubting God’s love, mercy, and goodness, into people who can be certain of His love for us. When God spoke to me through that song on my iPod, through the beautiful words of Isaiah 49, I knew that He had heard my cry—and He stepped in very powerfully at that moment, speaking His Word of life over me.
God was faithful to me through His real, tangible words of truth. I had a choice. I knew I did not have to believe my earthly father’s words. My heavenly Father had seen my pain and had answered me in a deeply personal way from His Word.
God Has Not Forgotten Me
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” (Isa. 43:2)
Sometimes we can know the truth of God in our minds, but not let it sink into our hearts. Or perhaps we have experienced a time of spiritual dryness, a time of suffering, or a time of God’s silence. During these times, it can feel like God has forgotten us. This can be frightening and even cause us to question the truth and reality of God.
A friend recently told me that her current situation makes her feel as though she was five years old again and her father has forgotten to pick her up from school. That is a very real and deeply unsettling feeling, and it can shake our faith and our trust in God to the core. My situation is telling me You are not here and You are not coming. Where are You, God? Yet the true extent of God’s care and concern for us is breathtaking:
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7)
God is not like your earthly father. Difficult circumstances do not mean He has failed or abandoned you. He has not left you at the school gate. God does not forget the child He made. He has not put you to one side while He is busy with other people. He is not bored with you, and He did not leave you midproject. He adores you. In fact, He promises (and God is incapable of breaking a promise) in
Joshua 1:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He continually watches over you. “He [takes] great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).
God is continually at pains to remind us not to be afraid, because He is with us. If He is with us, how can He forget us?
If you feel forgotten, I want to encourage you to believe the Word of God when He says, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
Call out to the Lord, and He will answer you. Wait patiently for the Lord, for He will turn to you and hear your cry. God loves you, He hears you, He speaks to you, and He will rescue you. Amen!
©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. God Knows My Name by Beth Redman. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Motherhood is a walk of life unlike any other. No matter how many opportunities you have to be around kids, until they are your own you can't possibly understand the complete affect that mommyhood (or daddyhood) will have you. You strive every moment of every day to be your absolute best. With television, magazines, and self help books promoting the utmost perfection you see your options as limited. I must not fail. I must not be subpar. Being a parent will not own me; I will own being a parent. Thoughts like these rush through any parent's head as he or she is in the throws of parenting an at home child. It's God's gift to us. He has to worry over us and we in turn have to worry over our own offspring. It is simply a fact of life.
But even knowing this is a fact that encompasses EVERY parent and not just you alone does not make living through the situation(s) any easier. Raising kids is a chore and a half. It's a hard job, and it wouldn't be completely with lots of up's and down's. You know what else? It is completely and utterly worth every minute. Being a parent is a gift unlike any other, and you can never fully understand that until you've had the opportunity to try it on firsthand.
Amy Wilson, author of When Did I Get Like This? The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget Buyer, and Other Mothers I Swore I'd Never Be, understands this theory all too well. As she goes on to describe in her book, being a mother is anything but easy. You constantly feel like you have to measure up to the world's standards and by the world's standards I mean those of all parents within a 100 mile radius of you. You don't want your child to be considered "that" child or the one whose parents do everything wrong. You don't want to be solely responsible for scarring your child for life simply because you didn't get him/her into the best preschool available in your area or because you choose to spend time washing your hair and dressing yourself instead of using that valuable time to pick out darling son or daughter's best outfit for church. It's a constant struggle to live up to the expectations that society puts upon you as a parent, and still at the end of each day as long as you've done your best you have to realize that nothing more is necessary. Your children will not grow up stunted. They will not, in all likelihood, hate you. Infact, they'll probably even love you.
I myself adore being a parent, even when the times get tough and it's hard to know what I should do. Now 7+ years in, I couldn't even being to imagine my life without my little girls. All the joy they bring to me on a daily basis is well worth the internal struggles I may go through when weighing up my own inadequacies as a parent. Amy Wilson, like me, understands this. She understands that no matter how perfect a parent you strive to be, you'll never quite attain that golden halo. Because despite your best efforts, you'll often times end up being merely mediocre.
I think Amy put it best when she said, "Again and again, motherhood will throw at me things for which I will feel, and may indeed be, completely unprepared. What will decide whether or not I am a good mother is not whether I am ready for such times, but how I move through the door." Does that not sum it up beautifully? Parenting is such a simple yet completely complex adventure. Like those childhood books where you choose how the story plays out, there is no definitive plan you must follow. There will be options along the way where you will have to decide what is more important and what direction you want to go. Assuming you truly put your child's best interests at heart then in the end your child will turn out just fine.
As a parent you will bend over backwards on behalf of your child, and still you may not always feel appreciated. Even when you've lived up to and surpassed your own incredibly high expectations, you may not find yourself receiving that nod of acknowledgment you so deeply crave. Whether it's at home, school, church, or even among friends; unfortunately, it comes with the territory. Amy describes just this in the story she tells about helping her son work on an extravagant class scrapbook which was to detail, in pictures, his weekend visit with the class [stuffed] pig. All the previous entries in the photo scrapbook were very extreme and anything but boring. Amy felt an urgent need to spice up her family's usually boring weekend at home, but no one else was feeling the urge. Met with a lack of indifference from her son, Amy was left to complete the project on her own. Spending an unseemly amount of time making it just right, Amy anxiously awaited her son's return from school that Monday afternoon so she could hear all about how much the teacher and class loved the newly scrapped pages. "Once again, I had been had. Not only were my exertions unappreciated, they were not even noticed. However, had I handed in a picture of Connor's unopened backpack with a caption saying "This is where Penny spent the weekend at our house. Then she suffocated. The End," that would have been certain to come back and bit me in the ass. The things a mother does well are always invisible compared to the things she does badly." This just goes to show that in the end it really shouldn't be about what other people think, say, or do, but what you, yourself, are ready and willing to do for the pure and simple fact of doing it for your child.
Truthfully, I could go on and on about this subject, but it's one I too find particularly close to my heart. The honest to goodness truth of the matter is though, I'm no where near as funny as Amy. So, rather than me prattling on and on about my own thoughts and opinions on the subject, let me just direct you to Amy's book. When Did I Get Like This? The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget Buyer, and Other Mothers I Swore I'd Never Be is by far one of the funniest books on parenting I've ever had the pleasure of reading. It's no wonderful Amy is the star of her own popular one-woman show titled Mother Load. (Which I might add, I really really wish would come to Oklahoma!!!) It's a hilarious tale of motherhood through the eyes of one of us. Amy writes from within the inner sanctum of mommyville, capturing perfectly the charm and sheer craziness of being a parent (mom or dad). With a unique perspective that only someone on the inside can have, Wilson shares some of her darkest mommy moments and how through them she became an even stronger mom, woman, and wife. It's candidly smart and funny, and is for sure a book any mother would be blessed to read.
Thank you to Amy and her agent who allowed me this review opportunity. It's been an incredible delight and honor!
~Bookish Mom aka RebekahC
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The Hat I'm Wearing
Like most working moms (that would be ALL of us, of course!) I’m a serious multi-tasker and wear a lot of hats. I’m the grocery shopper, the primary cook, the laundress, the chauffeur, the homework nag, the fan in the stands—whatever it takes at that moment to make our home and our lives run smoothly. I’m also a writer with deadlines and other professional responsibilities.I’m both proud of and horrified by how many things I can accomplish in one day and have become somewhat addicted to the thrill that comes with crossing something off the daily ‘to do’ list. It’s a great psychological ‘pat on the back’ – something homemakers and mothers all too rarely get.
I have been known to whine on occasion, but mostly I’m OK with constantly juggling work and home.However, who I am at any particular point in time can be confusing. (This is not an esoteric issue but one of name and identity.) Because I married late and was attached to and known by maiden name, I decided that I would keep it professionally and take my husband’s last name legally and socially.
So I stayed Wendy Wax for work and became someone else entirely in our personal life. As a longtime ‘W’ it’s been kind of nice to shoot up to the beginning of the alphabet, even though my days of being called on in class or lining up alphabetically are pretty much over. At the time I decided to split my identities, everything was separate and easily defined; I did talent work and video and film production then and my two worlds rarely collided.
But then I had children as one person and sold my first book as another. And the confusion inherent in having two distinct identities began.After all these years of split personality, I still occasionally get confused.
Am I the baseball mom working concession, taking tickets or cheering from the stands?
Or the author in the bleachers staring down at her laptop instead of the game trying to complete one more chapter?
Am I the guest speaker whose audience will be enthralled by everything I say?
Or the mother who talks to walls because she lives in a house of males with highly selective hearing?
Am I out in the world driving car pool, shopping for groceries, and picking up the dry cleaning? Or am I the frantic writer on deadline, holed up in my office unshowered and still wearing pajamas?
Sometimes I have to stop and take a minute to figure this out. I need to get my name straight in my mind before I walk into that room.
I read an article recently about how important it is not to separate the parts of your life but let them all exist and flow together. But if I were unable to shut out my real world for long enough periods of time, I would never have completed a novel let alone eight of them. And there have been times when real life got tough, and it was nice to be able to retreat into the fantasy world I was creating.
Most of my novels are set in the suburbs and revolve around women living lives similar to mine.
My characters, like most of the women I know, tend to wear many hats and sometimes feel overwhelmed.
I’m not sure that there’s any solution to this, but if we ever meet and I hesitate slightly before I introduce myself, just know that it’s not at all about you.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Top notch journalist Vivian Gray has it all. She’s got the investigative reporting career of her dreams and the most amazing boyfriend she could ever hope for. Life is perfect. But as quickly as success found her, so is Vivian left scrambling for some semblance of the life she knew. Chasing a lead, Vivian travels to the depths of a New York City parking garage in hopes of getting the undercover skinny on what could very well be a huge Wall Street scandal. However, things go horribly awry, and Vivian not only loses her jump on what could have been an incredible story, but she also is suddenly the laughing stock of America. Plus to make matters worse, Vivian finds herself on the outs with her network. Apparently being forty one makes her too old to draw the ratings they’re looking for, so they’re bringing in someone new- someone younger and fresher to take her place. Unwilling to just roll over and take the hit quietly, Vivian quits. She understands the position she’s in; it’s a nightmare. Lucky for Vivian it’s one that can most definitely not get any worse. Or so she thinks.
A call from her doctor quickly dispels that theory though. For what Vivian finds out is nothing short of shocking- she’s pregnant! With her longtime war correspondent boyfriend Stone, on assignment in Afghanistan, Vivian finds herself unable to burden him with the astounding news. It’s not that she will never tell him, but it’s a doozie and something she wants to wait for just the right moment share.
Down and out on her luck, Vivian discovers that finding a new job isn’t as easy as she’d expected. Apparently her old network isn’t the only one that sees age as being a stumbling block instead of a stepping stone of experience. And whether she planned for it or not, Vivian is pregnant and she simply must find a job if she’s got any hope of supporting herself. That’s why when a lowly gossip column position becomes available, despite her very nature to shy away from it in disgust, Vivian puts herself forward and claims the job as her own.
It’s not a pretty job, but it’s one Vivian believes she can handle. She’ll have to do it discreetly of course, or risk making an even bigger name for herself, and not in a good way. And she really has been meaning to visit her sister down South in the Georgian suburbs. What better time than now? She can kill three birds with one stone. She can hide out from all the recent unwanted media attention. She can spend some time with her family. And best of all, it’ll be the perfect cover for her less than honorable research she intends to do to write her new column Postcards from Suburbia.
If only she’d known then how terribly wrong she was.
The goldmine of possible column ideas is simply unprecedented here in suburbia. Even Vivi, as her sister Melanie likes to call her, wasn’t prepared for the limitless, rant worthy wealth. Be that as it may, Vivi begins to find herself being drawn in more and more by the people she’s come to know as friends here in the Atlanta suburbs. Noting her initial impressions wrong, Vivi finds she’s starting to understand and even appreciate some of the formally foreign nuances of suburbia. The trouble is, she still has a column to write. So, personal feelings of guilt aside, if she expects to bring home a paycheck Vivian must continue to come up with something to write about, never mind the repercussions that could entail if she’s ever found out.
It’s a roller coaster of emotions and constant string of stupid mistakes. But at the end of the day, it’s Vivi’s life. And she’s hoping against all hope that it’ll not end up toppling over leaving her grasping for straws. Yet only time will tell…
Magnolia Wednesdays is by far one of the best books I’ve ever read, and certainly the best I’ve had the privilege to read so far this year. Written with what seems a flawless ease, this story was riveting and completely one hundred percent realistic. It’s written as a work of fiction, yet could easily be based on someone real’s life. For you see, the suburbs described in this story could just as easily been here in my town in Oklahoma as opposed to Georgia. The calls Vivian made on how life revolves around status and kids was very true. Of course, like Vivi discovers in the story this is not always a bad thing. There can certainly be too much competition and schedule overload, but these alone are not pigeon holed to the ‘burbs either.
I found Wax’s point of view refreshingly honest, and I loved how well thought out Vivian’s story was. It was carefully designed to show real life through the eyes of both the outsider and the insider, and that made it so much fun to read. The thoughts and actions that defined Wax’s characters were the same ones that exist in the real world on a daily basis. It was easy to relate to the women in Magnolia Wednesdays because of the time and care spent in developing them and their stories. I could understand and relate to them. I could feel their joy and sense their pain. In short, it was amazing.
This was my first introduction to Wendy Was, and now that I’ve been given a taste of her delicious brilliance I cannot wait to see what fine wonders her others titles bring to the table!!!
Many thanks to Joan Schulhafer and Caitlin Brown for this chance to read and review Magnolia Wednesdays. It’s been a real pleasure!
~Bookish Mom, aka Rebekah C
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Sid used to be in love- still is in a sense. But the day his girlfriend Zoe left him she took a little piece of Sid with her. Therefore, when scenic postcards, from faraway venues they were supposed to visit together, start showing up in his mailbox the already unbalanced Sid really begins to come undone at the seams. Reason being, Zoe didn't just up leave- she's dead. So how is she mailing him postcards from a trip she couldn't have possibly have ever taken?
Determined to understand what is going on, Sid throws himself head first into the mystery- going a little more crazy each day that he does. Skipping work, inventing health issues, and traveling the globe; all are a means to an end if Sid has anything to say about it. The trouble is, Sid needs help. The neurotic behavior is taking over every aspect of his life, and sadly his downward spiral is bound to come to a bone jolted end all too soon.
Wanting nothing but the best for her brother, Sid's sister tries to be supportive but lacks the ability to break through his delusional shell. Maybe a new girlfriend would be just what the doctor ordered. Getting Sid to accept this and understand how important letting go of his past is may be harder than originally expected. However, maybe if she keeps on him while still allowing him the necessary time for self discovery Sid will manage to come out on top. But hey, if all else fails, he'll always have his dead mother's spirit, which stays in a wine bottle in the cellar, to keep him company.
I'm not sure what to make of this book. It was a quick and easy read, quite quirky and entertaining. Yet somehow I felt lost at the end. I mean, I really enjoy a good twisted tale that leaves you, the reader, grappling with the facts and trying to figure it all out. A well written tale that leaves some mystery without being totally transparent is a huge literary turn on, but for me personally I think I took a wrong turn and lost the connection. It's just that there were certain aspects that made perfect sense, while others left me completely in the dark saying "huh???". I can't necessarily fault the author on this one though. It's entirely possible that the author failed to fill in a detail or two; yet, just as likely is the fact that the disconnect could have been in my own head.
All the same, I truly enjoyed Kirk Farber's Postcards from a Dead Girl, and I'm glad to have read it. Thank you to my contact at Harper Perennial for offering the review copy! =)
~Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC
Thursday, April 29, 2010
First time novelist Chris Killen shows the world he's not an amateur with his debut release, The Bird Room. Set in modern day UK, this is a book that delves deeply into the struggle and chaos of emotional and sexual dysfunction. Told through two separate stories that eventually conjoin via their social awkwardness, it's a book ripe with dark, filthy angst. The main characters constantly struggle with a lack of self esteem and confidence in themselves on a personal level. The intensity of it all quickly causes it to ebb over into these character's entire beings making their jobs, family, friends, and romantic and sexual relationships all swiftly begin to suffer.
Will isn't anything special, but his girl April is. He's one hundred percent sold on her, yet because he lacks the self respect and confidence necessary to maintain it, his relationship is on the chopping block. Resolution is merely a conversation away; however, Will doesn't seem to be able to give himself or the relationship the benefit of the doubt. A darkness grows within him, and as the self loathing continues to overcome him so does the inevitable truth about his relationship with Alice.
Clair used to be a good girl. She used to live a normal life and do normally mundane things. Now though she's anything but normal. Hoping against all hope to one day make something wonderful of herself, Clair- who now calls herself Helen, is living out her life through the mostly vile fantasies of others. It's not the life she's always envisioned for herself. She's become an actress alright, but not the kind living the glamourous life of fame and fortune. Just making it through the day is a struggle, and without some kind of intervention Clair, or Helen, won't be winding up on the cover of any magazines- not the good ones anyways.
The Bird Room is a story of love, hate, self loathing, and self discovery. It's raw, gritty, vulgar, and disturbing. Not a feel good love story, and still one that draws the reader in with it's wildly wicked storyline. Everybody has bad days; though for most of us the days come to and end and when the next one starts everything is just peachy keen once again. Will and Helen aren't as lucky, and their stories tend to weigh on the darker side of things. And that right there is what makes their troubled tales so intriguing.
Thank you to Harper Perennial Books for my opportunity to review this title.
~Bookish Mom, aka Rebekah C